Information About the Snakes of North America - Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

This is the deadliest snake in North America. Most deaths in the United States due to snakebite are because of the Eastern, not the Western Diamondback. The Eastern Diamondback has a very potent venom, and it injects the venom in high quantity. This snake has an extremely fast strike - 175 miles per hour. However, it cannot slither very fast, and it will stand its ground and rattle its tail, and if you get to within 2/3 of its body length when its agitated like this, there's a decent chance you'll end up dead. Do not approach this snake for any reason.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Here is a photo of a giant Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake that I caught in Orlando FL.

Click below pics for high-resolution photos of Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes:

Diamondback Rattlesnake Information - Diamondback Rattlesnakes that are found in the United States come in two varieties; the eastern and the western diamondback rattlesnake. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is found in the coastal areas in the Carolinas, Florida and Louisiana. They are often found in wooded areas where there is both land and water. The western diamondback rattlesnake is found throughout the rest of the United States in mountainous and semi-arid to arid areas in states like Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Texas and California. The western diamondback rattlesnake lives in shrubby and rocky areas that it can easily conceal itself, however these areas are common to outdoor sport enthusiasts like hikers, rock climbers and mountain bikers which is where the majority of rattlesnake bites occur.

Diamondback rattlesnakes are one of the largest snakes in the United States, and one of the most deadly. Rattlesnakes reach an average size of four to six feet when they are full grown. There have been some diamondback rattlesnakes that have even grown up to seven feet, but this is very rare. The diamondback rattlesnake gets its name from the diamond pattern of its scales that resemble diamonds. These patterns, along with its color which are gray, tan, yellow or red, help it to blend into the background and escape the notice of predators. However, it is because of the rattlesnake’s excellent camouflage, that unsuspecting hikers might accidentally step into its line of attack. The most well known characteristic of the rattlesnake is its rattle that it shakes to warn predators of its presence.

Another striking feature of the diamondback rattlesnake is its triangular head and the very light colored stripe that starts at the corner of its mouth and wraps around the back of the head. This snake is a part of the viper family and has heat seeking sensors under its nose so that it can successfully track prey at night as well as in the day. The prey of a diamondback rattlesnake usually includes anything that it can overpower and swallow in one bite like birds, rodents, lizards, ground squirrels, toads, rabbits and the occasional small pet. The venom that a rattlesnake will inject into its victims attacks the blood, making it thinner and harder to clot, therefore the victim will either bleed out or bleed internally. If the victim should scamper off after it is bitten by a diamondback rattlesnake, the snake can follow its scent trail until the animal falls down dead or is too weak to defend itself.

The diamondback rattlesnake will not come into sexual maturity until its third year of life. Rattlesnakes mate in the spring, following their hibernation in the winter. The first part of the mating ritual involves a “combat dance” that males engage in to assert domination and to determine who will get prime breeding rights. These dances involve the males throwing their upper bodies together and wrapping around each other. Once a dominant male has won a female snake the male will coil himself around her for copulation to occur.

The female diamondback rattlesnake will carry the young for up to 170 days which is an incredibly long gestation period for a snake considering that the average gestation period lasts only for 90 days. The delivery of the young is also a long practice lasting up to half a day, and in that time the female rattlesnake will give birth to anywhere between 10 and 20 young. The female diamondback rattlesnake gives a pseudo-live birth where the young are in egg-like sacks that they must puncture and then leave the mother’s body. Young rattlesnakes are born completely independent and will hunt and protect themselves from the day they are born. Diamondback rattlesnakes are mainly solitary, only meeting during mating season and to hibernate.

Here are some of my other snake info pages:
Guide to Florida's Venomous Snakes
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern Coral Snake
Water Moccasin a.k.a. Cottonmouth
Pygmy Rattlesnake
Timber Rattlesnake

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The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The descriptive name of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, also known as the Crotalus Adamanteus, reflects the appearance of the snake. As one of the largest and most famous of the United States' native snake species, it can be frequently encountered in its geographical range, and is one of the most successful species of snake on the American continent. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is so strongly associated with the early contact that immigrants had with the country that it actually appears on one of the early flags of the United States.

Appearance and Diet
As the heaviest venomous snake that is native to the United States the Eastern Diamondback is one of the most impressive snakes that people are likely to come into contact with, and the largest examples of the species can be up to eight feet in length. Although the largest specimens are quite rare, the average specimen of the Eastern Diamondback is around five and a half feet in length. The name of the diamondback describes the dark brown or black diamond patterns on the back of the snake with the majority of the scales tending to be lighter brown or an olive color. The majority of specimens will usually weight between four and seven pounds, but there are recorded examples up to twelve pounds. The tail of the snake has a well developed rattle which can be heard often before the snake itself is spotted.

When it comes to the feeding habits of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, it is a snake that will generally lie in wait or hunt its prey, and will then strike before releasing the victim. This allows them to follow their prey until it is defenseless and can be easily eaten. This versatile snake is able to eat all kinds of small mammals, and with the longest fangs of any rattlesnake, it can deliver enough venom to incapacitate even fairly large animals. Most of these snakes will hunt relatively small wild mammals such as rabbits and rats, although there have been examples of young turkeys and woodpeckers being eaten too. The snake doesn’t need to achieve many kills in order to survive, with an adult snake rarely eating more than five or six animals in a year, and doesn’t hunt at all during the winter months when it hibernates.

Behavior and Habitat
One of the best known facts about the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is that it is believed to be the most dangerous venomous snake native to the United States, but like most snakes it will usually avoid a confrontation with humans. However, if it feels that its nest or burrow is under threat then it will strike to defend itself, and because of the venom it can be fatal to humans. It is also a very agile attacker, and can strike targets that are up to a third of its body length away, and where threatened it can also strike repeatedly. There is a widespread belief that the rattlesnake will shake its rattle before striking, but as this will identify its location this is not always the case.

The geographical range of this species is actually quite small, with its presence limited to Florida and the south eastern states. This rattlesnake will prefer dry woodlands and forests that have plenty of ground cover to provide the snake with the chance to burrow into the leaf litter and branches on the ground. It is also notable because it has been observed taking the burrows made by gophers and using it both in the summer and the winter, although other specimens will not keep a specific burrow in the same way.

Reproduction and Growth Cycle
The breeding season for this species is usually between the middle of summer and the early autumn, and the female will release pheromones in order to attract her mate. One aspect worth noting about the reproduction of the Eastern Diamondback is that it is a species that gives birth to live young, with most broods being between ten and twelve young snakes at a time. This rattlesnake is not one that is known for its maternal care, with the young snakes only being accompanied by the mother for the first few hours of their lives, as they are born fully able to move around and already have fangs that can deliver venom to their prey.

The young rattlesnakes are known as neonates, and are usually around a foot long when they are born. Because of the fact that they are left to fend for themselves after birth, there is a relatively high mortality rate for these young rattlesnakes, which is why they will spend the majority of the first three years underground where they can hunt for rodents without exposing themselves to the predators above ground. They will usually grow fairly rapidly over the first two to three years before they reach maturity, but will continue to grow more slowly once they are sexually mature.

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